Americas Claim Most Missionary Deaths in 2009

37 Murders Reported Worldwide

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2010 (Zenit.org).- In 2009, both North and South America reported a total of 12 murders of Catholic missionaries, the Vatican's Fides agency stated.



The list of missionaries killed on active duty last year was compiled by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It includes the names of missionaries as well as all pastoral workers who died violent deaths, sacrificing their lives as a result of hatred of the faith or other reasons. The list avoids using the term "martyrs," leaving this judgment of merit to the Church.

In 2009, 37 missionary murders were reported, compared to 20 in 2008. The most recent list includes 30 priests, three women religious, two seminarians and three lay evangelizers.

Of these missionaries, representing 16 nationalities, 12 were killed in Brazil and Colombia, which reported six victims each.

Among the priests killed in Brazil was Spanish Father Ramiro Ludena, 64, who ministered to the poor for 34 years before he shot March 19 by a 15-year-old youth.

Father Gisley Azevedo Gomes, 31, worked in the national youth ministry office of the bishops' conference, and was murdered June 15 by a group of young men near Brasilia.

On Sept. 19, an Italian fidei donum missionary, Father Ruggero Ruvoletto, 52, was killed in his parish by a blow to the head.

A week later, on Sept. 26, Father Evaldo Martiolo, 33, who belonged to the Diocese of Cacador, was murdered in a robbery by a 21-year-old youth and a 15-year-old adolescent.

A priest who served the Brazilian bishops' conference as advisor of the youth section, Father Hidalberto Henrique Guimarães, 48, was found stabbed and beaten to death in his home in Brazil. Two adolescents, aged 16 and 19, were arrested for the crime.

In Columbia, five priests and a lay person were killed while evangelizing. These included two Redemptorists, Father Gabriel Fernando Montoya Tamayo, 40, and Father Jesús Ariel Jiménez, 45, who were murdered March 16 at the boarding school where they were working with indigenous children.

The lifeless body of Father Oscar Cardozo was found last September in his parish house in Villavicencio after he had been strangled to death.

Also killed in his residence at night was Father Emiro Jaramillo Cárdenas. Father Juan Gonzalo Aristizabal Isaza was found dead in his car, abandoned on a highway.

The sixth missionary was Jorge Humberto Echeverri Garro, a catechist who worked for social peace but was killed by guerrillas during a meeting about Church projects.

North America

The 12 deaths in North America took place in Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, the United States, Guatemala and Honduras.

In Mexico, a priest and two seminarians were forced from their car and shot dead while on their way to a meeting on vocations.

Two Spanish priests were killed in Cuba: Father Eduardo de la Fuente Serrano, 59, was killed Feb. 14 on a street outside Havana, and Father Mariano Arroyo Merino, 74, who was found dead July 13 in his parish tied, gagged, and burned.

Another two lives were claimed in El Salvador. Salvadoran Redemptorist Father Leopoldo Cruz was found dead in a canal in a rural area of San Salvador, several days after he had disappeared.

William Quijano of the Sant'Egidio Community, who had been working with poor children in the School of Peace, was killed by a gang near San Salvador.

The only female religious killed in North America was Sister Marguerite Bartz of the Sisters of the Most Blessed Sacrament, who was killed in her convent on a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico.

Also in the United States, Father Ed Hinds, 64, pastor of St. Patrick's Church in Chatham, New Jersey, was found lifeless in his parish residence with 32 stab wounds.

In Guatemala, American Father Lorenzo Rosebaugh of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate was shot and killed May 18.

In that same country, Franciscan Father Miguel Ángel Hernández, 45, was found murdered in a hotel room Nov. 10 after having been kidnapped several days earlier.

Unknown soldiers

The report included 11 violent deaths of missionaries in Africa, two in Asia and one in Europe.

Fides pointed out that the Church also remembers those of whom there is no news, "many who perhaps will never be known of, who in every corner of the planet suffer and even give their lives for their faith in Christ."

"This is the 'cloud of unknown soldiers of the great cause of God' -- in the words of Pope John Paul II -- to whom we look with gratitude and reverence, even without knowing their faces, because without them, the Church and the world would be enormously impoverished," the agency stated.

Fides quoted Benedict XVI's words on the feast of the first martyr, St. Stephen, last Dec. 26: "The martyr is, in fact, the person who dies in the certainty of being loved by God and, placing nothing before love for Christ, knows he has chosen the better part.

"Fully identifying himself with the death of Christ, he realizes that he is a life-giving seed that opens the way for peace and hope in the world."